3 Incomplete Assumptions that Credit Unions Make About Millennials

July 6, 2017

Author: Ethel Anderson

“Millennials” say they’d rather go to the dentist than listen to what their banks are saying. Finetchs like Venmo, Mint, Yapstone, and Addepar are quickly moving in to fill that demographic’s demand for convenient financial services. Where does that leave the Credit Union?

Let me start this article by admitting, if there is something to presume, analyze or write about the millennial generation it has been done. If no other generalizations are true, we can certainly dub those born between 1977-1995 (depending on your source) as the most scrutinized generation in history. However, articles are still being written, and it’s not because we need more content. If you’re like me, you’d rather not hear the term “millennials” ever again – yet here it is. Articles like this exist because it’s an easy way to say, “How to stay relevant to your upcoming customer base.”

Let me also clarify that this is not a new discussion. Businesses are forever working to stay relevant as times change. In 1966 Time Magazine named “the generation twenty-five and under” its Person of the Year. Imagine the fun we would have had with Baby Boomers had Twitter been around in the 60’s.

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For Credit Unions, however, this discussion remains particularly critical. Research shows that the average age of credit union members is in the mid to late forties. Couple that with the overall distaste that millennials have toward banking in general (71% would rather go to the dentist than listen to what their banks are saying), and it becomes obvious that there’s a very real, very challenging task ahead.

That’s why we gathered this list of three assumptions that Credit Unions make with regards to Millennials that might be hampering the effort from the get-go.

1. Sincerity and Good Customer Service Always Win

Honesty, fairness, customer service. These are all values that the traditional credit union prides, even attempts to differentiate itself, on. While customer service can be a great differentiator, it’s not exclusive to the Credit Union. All it takes is an honest bank with great customer service and better pricing to open shop on the corner, and it’s game over.

The Opportunity: You’re on the right track. If that customer service can be extended to empathy, then to personalization, you’re a hit with younger members who have grown up getting personalized recommendations everywhere – from the friends they should follow on Facebook to the products they’d like on Amazon. (This is where technology can be your best friend – find a solution that gives you strong customer profiling and segmentation so you can make personalized offers to your members.)

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2. Millennials Aren’t Ready for Our Services

We’ve spent so much time talking about the idea that millennials are the future, that we didn’t even notice when they started having kids, buying houses, and saving for retirement. While millennials certainly face unique economic challenges (higher student loan debt, coming into the workplace during or after the Great Recession, massive cynicism around Social Security and retirement),  According to research from Goldman Sachs, about half of the millennial generation is already in its peak home buying years. Another survey showed that 70% of millennials are saving for retirement. So, while millennials on average are low on the net-worth scale because they’re “just starting out”, they are in prime position to decide where they’re going to grow their wealth.

The Opportunity: Let’s go back to the personalization idea for a second. Comparatively speaking, those under the age of 35 have accumulated less wealth than their older counterparts (again, not a new thing). However, millennials have unprecedented access to information and an estimated 61% use that access to actively seek advice about investing and personal finance. Be the advisor.

3. We Have to be Mobile-friendly

You’re reading this article on the internet, so I’m going to assume that I don’t have to tell you that the internet exists, or why it’s kind of a big deal. And, if averages hold true, more than half of you are reading it on a mobile device. So, to say you have to be “mobile-friendly” is a drastic understatement. Where many Credit Unions miss is the extent to which the member experience should be “mobile-friendly” and what that actually means.

The Opportunity: The need for mobile access is representative of two necessities: speed and convenience. Your new millennial members want to apply for mortgages on their iPhones, not because they like reading legal fine print on a small screen but because they want things immediately. So, when you’re whiteboarding your new mobile loan origination strategy take everything back to “quick” and “convenient”. If it’s not quick and convenient, it’s a waste of good app space. In the same way, blend that focus into your in-person or even “desktop” digital experiences for a consistent experience.

The amount of information that’s proliferated around millennials has propelled the generation to an almost mythical status. Conflicting statistics and reports prompted one writer to throw his hands up and say “It is hard not to come to the conclusion that no one really has a finger on the pulse of millennials.”

In reality, millennials are simply early adopters of many technologies and expectations that you’ll see widespread in the future (remember when Facebook was for 25 year-olds?), so it will pay to get this one right. If all else fails, try asking a millennial what they think. I’ve read that they love to talk about themselves.


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